What was here before?
This site was once occupied by several buildings that were part of the Kingston Avenue Hospital. In the 1950s, the hospital was absorbed into the Kings County Hospital Center, which is currently located opposite the park on the south side of Winthrop Street. The former hospital buildings were demolished to make way for the construction of George W. Wingate High School in 1954. This area was called Pigtown after its numerous small animal farms well into the 20th century. Eventually, the neighborhood adopted the name of Wingate after the school and adjoining park.
How did this site become a park?
The City bought this property at the southeast corner of Brooklyn Avenue and Rutland Road in 1952, and the park opened in 1957. It had been named Hawthorne Field and George Wingate High School Park before NYC Parks Commissioner Henry Stern (1935-2019) shortened the name to Wingate Park in 1987. A dead-end section of Fenimore Street that extended partway into the park was added in 1993 when the right-of-way was transferred to NYC Parks.
The park addition was renovated in 1996 and infrastructure improvements were made in 1997. In 2017, the playground was rebuilt and an adult fitness area was added. In 2020, the basketball courts were rebuilt.
Who is this park named for?
This park is named for George Wood Wingate (1840-1928), best known for co-founding the National Rifle Association (NRA). A Union general in the Civil War, Wingate was disturbed by the inadequate skills of the Northern soldiers, feeling they lacked discipline and were poor marksmen. In an effort to address these problems and to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis,” he created the NRA with Colonel William Church (1836-1917) in 1871. Wingate was also a lawyer and wrote several books and manuals, including Manual for Rifle Practice, Including a Complete Guide to Instruction in the Use and Care of the Modern Breech-Loader (1872), Through the Yellowstone Park on Horseback (1886), and History of the Twenty-Second Regiment of the National Guard of the State of New York; from Its Organization to 1895 (1896).
He was also among the founders in 1903 of the Public School Athletic League, which continues to organize high school athletics today. The park honors Wingate’s deep interest in school athletics through a range of different athletic opportunities to students at the high school and the surrounding community.